Director: Sergei Bodrov
Stars: Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges
2 (out of 5) Globes
“Seventh Son” is unpretentious fantasy junk that would have been patchwork Eurotrash in the 1980s, when Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian ruled the earth. Now, in the wake of “Game of Thrones,” it’s a pricey and handsome monstrosity with real (and real paid) actors, namely Jeff Bridges and current likely Oscar winner Julianne Moore, the latter with a tail. But money and prestige hasn’t made it smarter or, better yet, pompous. It’s a pure time-killer that barely makes sense and barely has anything to recommend apart from watching its overqualified cast have apparent fun, as well as the novelty of it not entirely, thoroughly sucking.
Though it shares a name with an Orson Scott Card favorite, “Seventh Son” is actually a take on Joseph Delaney’s “The Spook’s Apprentice.” It’s an unfortunate title, though the word “spook” remains, pertaining to the job title of Bridges’ John Gregory, a weary, vaguely The Dude-ish witch hunter in some magical Dark Ages realm. He’s on the hunt for an ex: a shape-shifting witch named Mother Malkin (Moore) he used to date but is now sworn enemy to him and humanity as well. Malkin dispatched with Gregory’s last apprentice (“Thrones” star Kit Harington), who is replaced with Tom (Ben Barnes), the seventh son of a seventh son, which gives him some kind of importance that, like almost everything else in the story, is barely explained and doesn’t ultimately matter.
What follows is handsome and, at just over 90 minutes, noticeably jagged — hacked into nothing but half-passable action set pieces and Jeff Bridges growling. The acting legend really doesn’t give a s—: he trips over sets while mumbling through yet another variation on the mega-grizzled geyser routine that is now his go-to on-screen persona. He sounds like Rooster Cogburn filtered through his sing-songy psycho from the dreadful remake of “The Vanishing.”
It’s fun to watch Bridges, but his indifference is more fun than the general indifference of film, which turns into one of those fantasy romps where rules seem made up on the spot, as though each magic trick was just something a lazy storyteller pulled out of his ass. Perhaps worst of all, it barely lets Olivia Williams — who has turned, via “Hyde Park on Hudson” and “Sabotage,” into one of cinema’s great pissed-off grumps — do next-to-next-to-nothing. (She has what looks like a fun smackdown with Moore, but it winds up sadly abortive.)
OK, maybe there is a bit of care here. The screenplay, which includes a credit for the distinguished Steven Knight (“Dirty Pretty Things,” “Locke”), may just plow through the plot, but it does move. The striking (and expensive) production design comes from the legendary Dante Ferretti (who has worked with Fellini, Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese). The effects are seamless and seriously hit-and-miss Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov (of the great “Prisoner of the Mountains” and the stodgy “Mongol”) uses “Drive” cinematographer Newton Thomas Siegel to fine, fluid purpose.
And while her “Big Lebowski” co-star is just muttering through the shenanigans, Julianne Moore seems to genuinely be having fun. Moore can seem lost in big budget fare, but she locks onto a vampish swagger that makes her joy contagious. She purrs through her lines, not worrying that her character will frequently just turn into a dragon that slithers through the sky. Where Bridges deflects embarrassment through bemused disengagement, Moore goes tongue-in-cheek, elevating forgettable trash into momentarily half-engaging forgettable trash.